What it’s about: (from Goodreads) “Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): It’s difficult to describe this book. Part of the joy of it is watching the plot unfold and go in unexpected directions. The blurb doesn’t give much away but one really doesn’t need to know much more to dive in. For those who might need a little more, I’ll talk about the plot a bit further however.
Agnieszka is at first completely confused as to why she was chosen by the Dragon. It doesn’t appear the Dragon is very happy about it and she has no idea what to expect. To find out that she has magic is an absolute surprise. What is not a surprise to her however, is that her magic doesn’t work in the same way as other magic users. Agnieszka is always untidy and clumsy. She can walk from one room to the other and rip her dress, stain her hem and spill something on the carpet, all without trying. She’s messy and untidy and terrible at simple spells. However, when The Wood mounts a concerted attack against Polnya and her beloved valley, she is forced to learn how her magic works very quickly and the Dragon finds unexpected help. When the Dragon is called away and her best friend Kasia is taken, reckless, impulsive, fierce and loyal Agnieszka risks herself for her friend. As The Wood’s corrupt influence grows, Agnieszka finds herself in increasingly desperate straits and things very definitely get worse before they get better.